I need to start with a disclaimer. I am happy with what I have, but I am admittedly comfortable. I have a paid for house, two paid for (albeit old) cars and a decent cash flow. Would I still be happy if I lost it all? Hmmm. I would like to think so, but I don’t suppose I will find out unless that happens. Still, because I realize that happiness does not come from the accumulation of stuff, I hope I could be happy even if my net worth was zilch.
But enough about me. What do you need to make you happy? A nicer car? A better paying job? A bigger house? The newest cell phone? Now let me ask another question: do you truly believe that these things will give you long term happiness? My guess is that life has taught you that whatever mood boost you might receive won’t last. It never does. The moment you get the latest and greatest, the euphoria dissipates and you begin longing for something else. Am I right?
Why Stuff Won’t Make You Happy
Our problem is that we try to satisfy a basic human need with something that won’t work. Our spirits cannot achieve peace, contentment and happiness with more stuff. Striving to do so is akin to a drug addiction: the short term high and a long term let down induces us to dig in, try for even more and better stuff, get that short term high again, and find ourselves back where we started. Simply put, a self-centered life will never produce happiness.
What Does Make You Happy
Because humans are created in the image of God, we need to look at the character of God to figure out what makes us tick. I John 4:8 tells us that God is love. What does this mean? That God, who gave His only Son for us (John 3:16) is a giver. This is why Jesus told us that it is better to give than receive. Do you want to be happy? Try serving others.
But how can I be happy when I don’t have anything?
‘Joe, I agree that “stuff” won’t make me happy and that it is better to give than receive, but I am having trouble being happy when I barely have enough food to eat. How can I be happy with what I have?’
I knew this question was coming, and I don’t have an easy answer. But stick with me. There is nothing wrong with wanting the essentials of life. Even Paul, who had learned to be content whether he had much or had nothing (Phil 4:11-12), told Timothy, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (I Tim 6:8). I know this isn’t easy to hear, but some of the happiest people in history barely had food to eat. Paul was content. Jesus was full of joy. Mother Teresa was at peace.
I readily admit that I haven’t walked a mile in your shoes, but Paul, Jesus, and Mother Teresa have. I am sure that they would all agree that happiness is possible in abject poverty, and that more possessions will never increase that happiness. On the other hand, Jesus commended the poor widow (Luke 21:2) who gave her last two coins. Even if you have very little, you will be happier if you find a way to serve others.
A Spiritual Discipline
Happiness is an elusive quality – one that cannot be achieved by seeking it. However, when we place ourselves in the hands of God, happiness will find us. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with advertisers who are trying to sell us happiness in a box, it is easy to succumb to those allures. When we do, we place ourselves on a path toward self absorption, exhaustion and depression. On the other hand, when we dovetail our lives with God’s plans, regardless of how much or how little we possess, we will discover happiness. Trying to find happiness anywhere else will always result in frustration.
Are you happy with what you have? Why or why not? Leave a comment below!